So if Pinterest or Instagram has anything to say about it, all yogi’s live, work, and play in handstand. Some of them may even scrub their stoves and fold laundry while in handstand. While this (obviously) isn’t true, a lot of people do seem to be focusing on this one asana. I’m not sure about others reasons, but I do know why it is part of my practice. You see,
I am terrified of handstand.
Let me back up. I didn’t always know I was terrified of handstand. I didn’t really even think about it being part of a yoga practice. But the first time my teacher Erin suggested that maybe we’d get into handstand during a class, I had an instant whole body reaction. Like total fear consuming my body. And then I had to gently guide myself away from the edge of a panic attack all graceful like- thank goodness breathing super slowly is the norm in a yoga studio.
The next time she mentioned handstand, it was to get us into prep work for one during a class. Basically you come into Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), walk your feet forward a bit, and practice kicking your legs up in the air. I went into a mode that I haven’t gone into since being forced to play basketball as a kid-
Faking effort while actually half-assing my way through it
So there I was, with little baby kicks that were guaranteed to keep me close to the ground and keep my body nice and safe. A picture of calm and chill, albeit lazy, effort. But inside? Inside was a conversation between fearful me and mean me, it went something like this:
“It’s obvious I’m not even trying. Erin is going to notice and come see if I need help and I don’t want to do this and why am I panicky over this and-”
“Yeah well it doesn’t matter, I’m not strong enough to get up anyway.”
“If I’m not strong enough to get up then I could probably kick a little harder, right?”
“Yeah, until I kick too hard and my weak arms give out and I end up flipping over before breaking my neck. I’m not strong enough to do this. My arms are weak. Always have been, always will be.”
It went on and on and on for what felt like ages. Kicking feebly, willing myself invisible so I wouldn’t be noticed, completely out of my yoga zone and talking like crap to myself.
Anyone want to guess what the theme of that days class was?… Satya
The practice of integrity and honesty in thought, speech, and action. Specifically, the integrity with which we speak to ourselves. In other words- making an effort to do exactly the opposite of what I was doing with my mental battle of fearful me vs mean me.
So- driving home that day I was thinking about how my arms are weak and my “core” is weak and how I should quit being lazy (more mean talk) and start doing something to make them stronger- like lift weights or something. And then I thought about how that-would-hurt-and-I-hate-hurting-and-how-maybe-I-would-never-be-strong-enough-for-handstand-or-any-other-things-that-require-arm/core-strength-and-maybe…
Suddenly in the midst of this rambling self depreciation and doubt a new thought came to me- all calm and wise like:
Huh, you thought you weren’t strong enough to raise 5 kids alone, either. Seems you were wrong about that, maybe you’re wrong about the handstand thing, too?
So long story not (quite) as long- I decided to conquer handstand. Not because it’s trendy or to prove anything to anyone else- but to continue peeling back the layers to find who I am at the core. You see, the mind/body connection goes both ways. The mind can teach the body, and the body can teach the mind. So by conquering my physical fears, I’m teaching myself to conquer my mental fears as well. Because fear has overstayed it’s welcome in my life. I’ve given it free room and board as well as a voting majority on all decisions for way too long. I don’t want to make choices (or avoid them) out of fear any longer. I don’t want to miss opportunities or follow paths that don’t sit well in my soul. I don’t want to let fear dominate my life. Simple as that.
Anyway, on to the reason I as motivated to write this post- today. Today I saw a huge step forward in my practice. Today I took my toe away from the wall in a handstand-against-the-wall. Only for a second, but considering all that I’ve had to overcome in my own body and mind to get to that point- one second of trusting myself in a scary place is a huge accomplishment 🙂